Dear Aunty Kate
My three-year-old has a habit of throwing the worst tantrums ever; especially when he does not get what he wants! My husband and I are at our wits end trying to control him. He is our only child. We are ashamed to take him out in public. Please help!
I am sorry that you and your husband are having such a hard time raising your son.
Being your only child, it appears to me that you and your husband may have spoilt him by catering to his every whim and now that he is older you are both finding it very difficult to deal with. You would not be the first parents to have done this, if in fact you did do this, nor will you be the last.
Research shows that although children are born with certain hereditary tendencies, habits, be they bad ones or good are learnt. Children are intelligent beings, they notice things that parents may take for granted. For example, you son may have picked up as early as a baby that either you or his father gives in to him whenever he makes a fuss. Being first parents and loving your son as I am sure that you both do, you may have erroneously thought that letting him cry for a while might hurt him, or not giving in meant that you did not love him.
Loving your son means having to say “No” sometimes. It is not too late to begin afresh. The child will want what he wants, but the responsibility is on you and his father to lovingly teach him that in life people do not always get what they want.
The Bible teaches that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6). While you do not want to deprive him of the essentials of life, (healthy foods, clean clothes, water, comfort…) disciplined behaviour is best very early in life.
The next time he asks for something, as long as it does not have to do directly with the essentials, gently explain that you cannot. He is more intelligent that you may be giving him credit for. Speak to your son as if he were five years old. Explain why you cannot give him what he wants right now. He will throw a tantrum but you have to be firm in your resolve not to give in. Eventually, he will learn that you are serious about what you say. Conversely, he may just surprise you by actually yielding to your new approach with him the first time.
Let me know how it goes.